Omicron has let rip at such ferocious speed that researchers are still scrambling to gauge how much of a threat the variant poses to current defences. Early data suggests its capacity for reinfection is unprecedented, putting pressure on medical circles to establish a full symptom profile for the strain. Anecdotal evidence suggests it elicits mild symptoms, with the triple-jabbed suffering minor illness only. To date, the most common signs include a continuous dry cough, scratchy throat, and night sweats, but recent reports describe additional cases of sleep paralysis as well.
Social media is becoming replete with reports detailing marked sleep disturbances after contracting the virus, with many including stories of sleep paralysis.
Sleep paralysis can afflict people at various stages of sleep, leaving them unable to move or speak, and sometimes causing hallucinations.
The NHS explains: “Sleep paralysis is when you cannot move or speak as you are waking up or falling asleep.
“It can be scary but it’s harmless and most people will only get it once or twice in their life.”
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The health body continues: “Sleep paralysis happens when you cannot move your muscles […] because you are in sleep mode but your brain is active.”
A paper published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in April was one of the first to outline the sleep disturbance in relation to COVID-19.
The researchers described a marked increase in sleep fragmentation among patients in quarantine, suggesting sleep paralysis was a side effect of the pandemic itself, as opposed to the virus.
Sleep therapy expert doctor Kat Lederly told MailOnline: “It could be the virus infection itself impacts on the sleep regulation in the brain (neurological effects of Covid have been reported).
“I think it is more likely that should there be an increase in sleep paralysis, that this is due to the stress resulting from the big changes to how we go and live our lives at the moment, the uncertainty and anxiety that we are facing which are impacting on our sleep system.
Other experts have theorised, however, that sleep paralysis may manifest as a side effect of both the virus and heightened stress.
Kathryn Pinkham, NHS consultant and founder of the Insomnia Clinic, explained that sleep paralysis often results from disruptions to sleep patterns.
She said: “Once our sleep pattern becomes disrupted due to ill health or anxiety, then we get stuck in a cycle where we begin to associate bed with being awake.
“For example, the longer we spend in bed tossing and turning unable to sleep, the more we begin to relate our bed to being awake.
“Equally, the more hyper-vigilant and anxious we become about sleep, the worse the cycle gets.
“Sleep paralysis is linked to sleep deprivation, so that would go some way in explaining why Covid and sleep paralysis are linked.”
Alongside sleep paralysis, complaints of night sweats and vivid nightmares have also become rife.
Night sweats involve sweating so profusely that your nightclothes or bedding becomes soaking wet.
Unlike initial forms of COVID-19, Omicron has displayed unique symptoms.
Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London, has explained that symptoms may vary depending on an individual’s vaccine status.
The most common symptoms of Omicron seen among the double-jabbed and the boosted include nausea, slight temperature, sore throats and headaches, according to Spector.